No Experience Necessary? Best Practices in Hiring Recent Grads

ThinkstockPhotos-592374708New graduates – they can be a welcome resource for companies and they can also be a bit of a challenge. While lacking real-world experience on the job may sometimes deter employers from hiring newbies right out of school, Robert Half Technology’s Senior Executive John Reed says that new graduates may actually bring a fresh perspective to the IT field. It’s important, he explained, for potential employers to consider everything; from a grad’s passion for technology to their diverse roster of talents and interests.

“Part of the challenge is often an employer wants someone with experience,” Reed said. Hiring someone without on-the-job experience often means that an employer will need to take time to train them and provide a foundation that industry veterans may already have.

But it doesn’t mean that new grads can’t deliver on their promise. They can and often do, said Reed. And he should know. He’s been traveling the country talking to college seniors about how they can use their skills, education and passions to ultimately get their foot in the IT door.

 

Bridging the Generation Gap

Reed’s learned a lot about new grads from his visits to colleges and universities to provide career consulting. By working with career services to help conduct mock interviews and review resumes of graduating seniors, he’s had the opportunity to get to know more about what young graduates ultimately want from employment and how they can use their passion for technology to achieve these goals.

Reed actually encourages soon-to-be grads to highlight their interests and even their volunteer services and technical skills on their resumes as a way to paint a more complete picture of their potential value for an employer.

“We give them tips on how to find jobs and network with potential employers,” he said. He also councils students about what employers are looking for in new hires and what they can expect to be asked in an interview. For most of these graduates, it’s their first foray into the professional world and it can be eye opening.

 

The Advantage of Hiring New Grads

Practically speaking, Reed said that new graduates often have an advantage in that they are very connected in terms of technology – everything from apps to coding. A couple of years ago he gave a speech to a graduating class and asked if anyone had ever built a website for themselves, friends or even a community group – and 75 percent of the hands went up. He then asked if anyone had ever built a computer, server or robot – and most of the hands went up.

The truth is that today’s outgoing graduates are far more tech literate then any generation in recent history. They have grown up with smartphones and digital communications. They have been using computers since before they could speak and they have come of age on social media. In many cases, their passion for technology actually transcends career goals into full-fledged hobbies. It’s work they do for fun.

Reed encourages recent graduates to share these experiences with potential employers, highlighting what they are most passionate about when it comes to the digital world and how they imagine their skills could be used. He said that grads should tell an employer about anything they have done even peripherally related to the tech field, like something part of a volunteer project: “I’ve built a website for my church” or “I’ve designed an app with my friends.”

 

Yup, Paying Video Games is Resume Worthy

According to a recent poll of CIOs, there are a number of interests than can actually increase an entry level IT job seeker’s appeal, including website or app development, video game playing and participation in so-called hackathons.

Reed said that a graduate interested in a career in IT may want to share the video gaming they’ve done during an interview, especially what has been gleaned from it. He encourages grads to explain what appeals to them about a particular game – and what they would do or design differently and why.

The poll also revealed that having interests and skills outside of the tech realm can also be seen as valuable to many employers of would-be IT professionals, including skills in math, liberal arts, business, psychology and marketing.

“While there is no substitute for meaningful work experience,” Reed said, “highlighting relevant hobbies and activities can be an effective way for new tech graduates to demonstrate their passion for the industry and impress hiring managers.”

And for a potential employer, looking deeper into what a new grad enjoys doing and wants to accomplish can help establish an important working relationship with someone new to the industry. A hiring manager could find the next company all-star simply by asking the right questions. It’s an opportunity to hire someone who’s a fresh slate.

“If you focus only on professional accomplishments,” Reed said, “you may overlook applicants who are innovative, passionate about technology and motivated to expand their skills. There can be great value in training a promising candidate who could potentially become a top player on your team.”

Natalie Hope McDonald is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia.